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Nantong's pioneering century

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First school for teachers, range of other benchmarks

Called the "pioneer of modernity" more than a century ago as the local textile industry prospered, the city of Nantong remains at the forefront in China today with both a booming economy and rich culture.

One of the first 14 coastal cities to embrace China's reform and opening-up, Nantong in Jiangsu province now has a bonded area, four national-level development zones, 10 provincial-level development zones and 50 zones for modern service industries.

Last year, the city's GDP grew by 12 percent to more than 455 billion yuan ($70 billion), ranking it 25th among the nation's medium and large cities. Its per capita GDP reached 62,506 yuan, according to official statistics.

And the traditional textile industry remains one of its most important industries, said local officials.

More than 1,600 textile companies in the city generated sales revenue of nearly 194.5 billion yuan last year.

Another major industrial sector of the city is the construction industry, which generated an output value of 432.5 billion yuan last year, a 20.7 percent increase over 2011.

Nantong has more than 1 million people working in the industry and its crews have left footprints not only across China but also in more than 70 countries and regions around the world.

Every year, about 24,000 builders from Nantong are sent overseas, accounting for more than half of the city's total expatriate labor.

Now other industries have become new growth points of the already affluent city.

Those emerging industries include marine engineering, new energy, new materials, biomedicine, intelligent equipment, energy saving equipment and software outsourcing.

In 2012, Nantong's revenue from taxes and fees went up 11 percent to about 105.6 billion yuan, fifth among all prefecture-level cities in China.

And actually utilized foreign investment in Nantong has maintained a stable level of between 2 and 3 billion for the past nine years.

Geographic advantage

As a gateway city both on the Yangtze River and the Yellow Sea, the city has reinforced its geographic importance with a faster connection to Shanghai.

Sutong Bridge opened in 2008, followed by Chongqi Bridge two years ago, integrating Nantong into the so-called "one-hour metropolitan circle around Shanghai".

Construction on a high-speed railway connecting Nantong and Shanghai is about to start, further facilitating transport of both cargo and people between the two cities when complete.

Thanks to its vital position, Nantong reported total export and import value of $26.3 billion last year, among which the export value grew by 4.3 percent to $18.8 billion.

Other factors

In addition to its trade prowess, Nantong also leads in many other walks of life.

The city has had a long tradition in education since China's first teacher training school opened in Nantong in 1902.

Today, there is a phrase that says the "Nantong education phenomenon", referring to the leading scores by its students in the national university entrance exam every year.

Local middle school students also have performed with excellence in international competitions in math, physics and other disciplines, wining a total of 17 golden medals and two silver medals.

Since the founding of the People's Republic of China, Nantong has nurtured 35 academics that serve at the China Academy of Science and China Academy of Engineering.

The city is also home to many famous Chinese athletes.

Since the late 1970s, 17 athletes from Nantong have won a combined 85 gold medals in international competitions in sports ranging from swimming to badminton, table tennis, volleyball, diving, gymnastics and fencing.

In every Olympics for the past six Games since 1992, athletes from Nantong have stepped onto the champion's podium.

The longevity of its residents is also a famed characteristic.

In a population of 7.65 million people, more than 300,000 are over the age of 80 and 1,025 are more than 100 years old.

It is also the safest city in Jiangsu. For several consecutives years, it has had the lowest crime rate in the province.

Nantong is also a center for museums.

Built in 1905, the Nantong Museum was the first of its kind in China and once part of the first normal school in the city.

It was the idea of Zhang Jian, a renowned entrepreneur and educator who founded the school and the textile industry in Nantong.

Today the city has nearly 30 museums ranging from textiles to art and the abacus.

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